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August 26, 2009

Comments

Bobby

Finally some sanity is returning to the discussion of HSR. We should take the opportunity now to re-visit the entire HSR concept, now that more facts are becoming evident, to see if it is still warranted. When the small majority (52%) who voted for prop 1A did so, a lot of these issues were not evident or disclosed. Now the citizenry should really reflect and decide as to whether they really want/need HSR (before we burn too much cash that we don't have)

HSR

Hope Bobby and Cohen you attended the Eshoo meeting tonight. Did you?

You would have got edewcated.

HSR

Eshoo iffy on high-speed rail process
August 27, 2009, 11:15 PM By Bill Silverfarb

Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
Approximately 500 people attended a town hall meeting organized by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, on high-speed rail plans on the Peninsula.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo expressed surprise last night to learn a deal was in place to run high-speed rail trains along the Caltrain corridor before voters approved the funding for it with the passage of Proposition 1A in November.

“I did not know there was a pre-approved plan before the election in November,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said during a town hall meeting on high-speed rail in Menlo Park. “I do not think most people who voted for it realized it either.”

The decision to use the Caltrain corridor was made in 2005 by the California High Speed Rail Authority during the program level environmental review process, said Mehdi Morshed, executive director of the rail authority.

The plan to run the super-fast trains up the Peninsula suffered a setback yesterday, however, as Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney sided with the cities of Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and three environmental groups to restudy running the trains through the Altamont Pass rather than the Pacheco Pass near Gilroy.

“The authority’s negligence in preparing the EIR showed disregard for the public’s right to complete and accurate information about the project, as well as for the authority’s own duty to obtain complete and accurate information about project environmental effects before making decisions,” said Stuart Flashman, the lawyer representing the environmental groups, Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

Judge Kenney ruled the project description was too vague so that the public could not determine exactly where the tracks would run. The analysis of land use was inadequate and the public could not determine how much private property would need to be taken or how many residents and businesses would be displaced, according to Kenney.

Former judge Quentin Kopp, who sits on the High Speed Rail Authority board, said the ruling would not be too big of a setback, though.

“The court finds legally insufficient one small portion of the environmental analysis of the 490-mile project’s first phase from San Francisco to Anaheim. Namely the San Jose to Gilroy part. That infirmity can be speedily cured by a reanalysis of the environmental factors affecting that 36-mile segment,” Kopp said.

Kopp attended Eshoo’s town hall meeting last night at Menlo Park’s City Hall with about 500 other people. An extra 200 chairs were set up outside of City Hall to accommodate overflow.

Eshoo’s town hall meeting panel included Mike Scanlon, general manager of Caltrain, Bob Doty, director of the Peninsula Rail Program and Dominic Spaethling, an engineer with the High Speed Rail Authority.

Eshoo read comment cards from some of the 500 attendees and charged the panel to answer the questions directly.

Most questions involved issues of diminishing property values, noise, disruption and whether the trains could run underground.

It is possible to completely tunnel the train on the Peninsula, both from an engineering and cost perspective, Morshed said.

“More land would need to be taken to build a tunnel,” Morshed said. “Construction will have to take place while Caltrain is operating, though.” But the Peninsula Rail Program’s Doty said it is too simple to say “let’s just build a tunnel.”
There are water tables and other factors to consider, Doty said.

But Eshoo said the panel sounded like it already had a bias toward certain rail schemes and needed to be more open to public input. “If you have a bias toward a plan it is useless to have these types of town hall meetings,” Eshoo said.

The trains will run cleaner, quieter and create thousands of jobs, Scanlon said.

The service will also not need to be subsidized after construction is complete, Morshed said. “The bond measure does not allow a subsidy,” he said.

The crowd, mostly those forced to sit outside of City Hall, booed and hissed the panel throughout the night.

Since grade separations will be required to operate the fast trains, there will be less suicides on the tracks, Scanlon said.

Caltrain will also be transformed when high-speed rail comes through. Electrification of the Caltrain line, a longtime goal for the agency, is largely dependent on high-speed rail funding.

“Caltrain will look like a rapid transit system,” Doty said. Traffic congestion and air quality will also improve, Scanlon said. There will also be no more train horns on the Peninsula, Morshed said.

“It’s the renaissance of rail,” Scanlon said. “This is more for future generations than it is for us.”

Proposition 1A was overwhelmingly supported by voters in the Bay Area in November. It is a $9.95 billion bond that provides seed money for a high-speed rail link from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The overall project’s cost is estimated to be about $38 billion, with about a third of the funding coming from the federal government.

Some 600,000 construction jobs will be created with the rail project and another 450,000 permanent jobs are expected to be created when the project is completed, Morshed said.

Eshoo represents the 14th Congressional District, which covers parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

***

This article was in the Daily Journal today and is uncensored, unclipped and in its entirety


Smokin' summin'

The service will also not need to be subsidized after construction is complete, Morshed said. “The bond measure does not allow a subsidy,” he said.

Hey Morshed! Name one rail service anywhere in the world that is not subsidized. This guy should have been fired this morning.

HSR

Hope the doubters and spouters will attend the High Speed Rail Town Hall meeting with Senator Leland Yee & Assemblyman Jerry Hill on:

September 26, 2009
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Burlingame Recreation Center

If this meeting is as informative and as well run as Mrs. Eshoo's meeting, it will be worth a hop, skip and a jump of our time to get edewcated.

pat giorni

Anna Eshoo's meeting was by far the best "outreach" done to date about HSR. I have heard a lot of presentations at Caltrain meetings, one in the Burlingame City Council, and in a few other venues over the past 18 months or so. Never before Thursday night has so much information come to light to the public, on the Peninsula at least.

Short of getting our hands on an audio recording of the meeting I think it could be valuable to document what we actually heard, not our impressions and opinions. Perhaps the following can be used as a starting point or outline where any who wish could make additions and clarifications. As part of the outside group with no sight of the interior of City Hall, this is what I heard and noted on Thursday night in the order of questions asked:

1. "How would a tunnel be funded?" Morshed answered, A tunnel would be funded with Federal and Private money only if it is found to be the best solution. We have to determine what does it take to build a tunnel. Funding is the least consideration of the project.

2. Asked about noise Morshed replied that "it will be far quieter than today; state of the art rails will produce less clickety-clack; there will be no horn noise when the grade separations are in place."

3. Morshed replied to a question that asked how HSR could justify a $200 fare for a 2 1/2 hour ride when the airlines charge $49 to LA for a 45 minute ride by saying that the fare would be $70-$80 one way, but did not specify between which travel points. Later in the evening Bob Doty clarified by remarking that $49 is usually a "special" airline fare with restrictions. He also emphasized that while the time in the air might be 45 minutes all the attendant time for auto parking, "taking off your clothes" for security clearance and ticketing confirmation takes another 2-3 hours.

4. After reading a question about how property values would be affected, and how much eminent domain is envisioned Eshoo also interjected, "Has HSR outreach been done for realtors?" Scanlon answered, "This is a classic case of fact and fiction. I wish I had all the money to buy the houses. If you are (now) living next to an 1850's train and have the chance to live next to a quiet HSR you ought to jump on it."

5. Martin Engle requested that Sec't of Transportation La Hood's statement be read into the record. "The era of 'one size fits all transportation' must give way to individual community needs." Scanlon said, "I'm in full support of that statement.

6. "How will air quality be improved when HSR does not serve the communities and commuters who clog our Peninsula roads and freeways?" Doty answered, by saying that grade separation will alleviate (eliminate) motor idling emissions that occur now while cars wait for the trains to pass.

7. "How many trains per hour, including Caltrain, will be run on the corridor?" Doti answered that when Caltrain is electrified the service is DESIGNED to operate up to 12 trains per hour in either direction, but the expectation is to run 8 trains per hour in each direction. The service will be dependent on ridership numbers. In 2015 we are anticipating 5 electric trains in each direction (what he didn't add is that Caltrain will be operating diesel trains along with the electric trains until 2025, which would bring the number to 8, when it is expected that the entire Caltrain fleet will be totally electric because the old style Gallery cars will have been replaced); and they anticipate 5 HSR trains in each direction. In future, but he did not specify any date, the expectation will be 10 Caltrain/electric per hour and 10 HSR trains per hour in each direction.

8. "What precautions will be taken on the rail line to prevent suicide?" Scanlon answered that full grade separation and added fencing will help, but added that it is impossible to stop suicide and that attention needs to be done as a Community Mental Health issue. He said that Mark Simon (Caltrain Deputy Director) is assisting in the formulation of a panel to address that.

9. "What public sources will invest?" I didn't write who gave the initial answer: $8-10 Billion will come from private partnership. Surplus revenue will also be used. Phase 1, SF to LA and Anaheim will be completely paid for by the $38 Billion where it will get $9B from Measure A and $12-16B from the Feds. Scanlon answered a follow-up "Will this take money from other transit systems?" by pointing out that the $9.5B bond assigns $950M to beef up feeder transit to HSR.

10. "Will there be a permanent operating subsidy?" Morshed answered that there will be no operating subsidy at all once it is constructed. It is a condition that it must be shown that there is no operating subsidy needed.

11. A long question was asked about the possibility of streets and roads closure if no grade separation was to occur in some locations. Again I did not note the person who answered, but the answer was that the "EIR will determine whether streets are closed due to no grade separation. The City Councils will have to make the decision." The follow-up to that was, "So, is tunnel financing and engineering possible?" Morshed answered yes; however tunneling will take more eminent domain.

12. "Why isn't the current Amtrak rail line being improved?" I didn't write the answer but my recollection is that the answer amounted to why throw money after a service that is in a bad state of repair. There may have been a remark about freight having 1st right of way on those tracks.

13. "Is US101 an alternative that might be selected?" Spathing answered that that alternative was studied in 2005. Eshoo then asked, "Did pre-approved plans come with Prop 1A?" Morshed responded that HSR had already concluded that 101 and 280 were not feasible because they are not aligned in a straight line and have too much curvature; and because those routes are not near enough to stations.THIS IS THE WATERSHED MOMENT OF THE MEETING. Eshoo states that she had no idea that a decision had been made about the route and what would be left out. "With all due respect I didn't know that. Who comes up with routes in the EIR?" Morshed answers that that was done during scoping. Eshoo responds that the routes were already limited before Prop1A passed.

14. A question was asked if there would be compensation for diminishing property values and Morshead gave an answer that suggested that a review panel might be established (akin to the SFO Roundtable that was set up for noise mitigation was my thought about what he said). Which led to a comment made by Eshoo, "I did not know there was a pre-approved (I missed the noun) before I voted. Where was the information? Did the Ballot Measure provide the information?" Morshed responded that No, there was no info in the ballot measure.HSR didn't write the ballot measure. There was further Eshoo comment about the sophistication of her constituancy and its ability to understand whatever information is provided. She went on to charge that the HSR website makes it difficult for almost anyone, including herself, to access meaningfull information.

15. A long statement from a constituant was read concerning a response Quentin Kopp had made to a newspaper the day before about the lawsuit decision where he charged the litigants as "mischief-makers." Eschoo asked that we all work to consences and treat all parties with respect. Stop the name-calling.

16. "Is there a Public Relations agency employed by HSR?" Morshead responded that we have extensive public outreach. "Is the PR firm writing the Business Plan?" Scanlon, "No." Morshed: The public outreach contract is now being reviewed for statewide HSR communication. The PR firm will facilitate printing, but not content of the business Plan, mailing, web-site content as part of outreach.

17. "What is the back-up plan if the train is too expensive; what if it is a boondoggle?" Response by Morshed that the HSR Board and the Legislature can stop the project.

18. "Why spend money on HSR when we can't take care of the basics?" (Education, health, etc.) Scanlon replies that public transportation is the best investment for the future.

19. "Why is Pacheco Pass the choice? Is Altamont available?" Morshed replies, "Read the EIR." Eshoo responds, "Answer the Question." Morshead says there are a number of reasons for the Pacheco alternative: there is a less adverse impact on the environment on the whole;the East Bay already has BART; many of the communities within the Altamont alignment are unanimously against construction there.

20. "Will you support a renewed look at Altamont in view of the court decision?" Scanlon answered that the court decision will not affect the project as its findings are minor.

21. "Many seniors used their one-time only Prop 13 exemptions to move to properties that could be slated for eminent domain. Would they be given that exemption again, if they have already used it, should they lose their property to eminent domain?" Answer: We don't know. Morshed responded that HSR is doing everything to avoid eminent domain at all costs, and that he is not aware of any home to be taken.

22. "What is the real cost?"

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